Lisa: 00:00 Hello, you’re listening to the Super Power U Podcast. This is episode #22.
Rachel Hart : 00:00 “Changing your relationship with alcohol is so much bigger than saying yes or no to a drink.”
Lisa: 00:09 Welcome to the Super Power U Podcast where we reveal the mental models and tactical skills needed to activate your inner super hero and here’s your host, Lisa Betts-LaCroix.
Lisa: 00:29 Hello, hello, hello. Welcome back to the Super Power U Podcast. Thank you so much for being here again today. Before we jump in to meet today’s guest I want to say thank you for being here listening to the show, following along as you journey down your own path of mastery…as you work on your own Superhero journey of remembering and developing and celebrating our strengths is the basis for personal growth, improving health, communication skills and relationship. I want to give a shout out to Dina Cataldo of the Soul Map podcast for her iTunes review. Dina wrote “I love Lisa’s interview style and simple explanations of concepts. There are several [episodes] which focus on communication, which are great tools to add to anyone’s toolbox. My favorite so far is one on Mirroring or reflecting a person’s statements to help create empathy and allow someone to feel heard.” Thank you so much for your feedback, Dina. It’s really helpful to know what lands and what makes a difference to you all…because really I am in this with you.
Lisa: 00:29 If there’s something you’re enjoying about the show I’d so appreciate it if you would send it on to one person…if you’re listening on an app there is usually a share button…if you don’t have anyone to send it to maybe you could make sure you’re subscribed or submit a review on iTunes or any podcast platform. It really helps us reach more people.
Lisa: 00:29 As I was preparing the show for you today it struck me that working on the podcast is such a gift to me. I keep noticing again how my conversations with my amazing guest grows me. I get to learn so much from having the conversations with incredible people and my guest today is such an incredible example of my own learning in action. Reflecting back on other recent conversations I keep on noticing that my guests keep on growing me. I hope you’re having the same experience. Recently my conversation with Sil Reynolds on Ep. #19 gave me great tools and a reminder of the power in relationship of mirroring with I explored in more depth in Ep 20. My conversation with KC Baker in Ep. #18 on finding your message, the one the world needs to hear that is uniquely yours was inspiring and led to my attending her WomanSpeak festival where I met incredible women some of whom you can look forward to meeting on the show. Elena Grinenko World Champion American Rhythm ballroom dancer who was my guest on Ep. #16 has transformed my dance practice by talking in that conversation about the importance of starting with and focusing on our strengths…such an important message no matter what it is your working on.
Lisa: 00:46 So without further ado, I want to introduce Rachel Hart. Rachel’s coaching focuses on the myriad ways that women disconnect from their bodies, including through alcohol. She is the author of a book called, “Why Can’t I Drink Like Everyone Else: A Step-by-step Guide To Understanding Why You Drink”. It is available in ebook form and hard copy. She’s also the host of the Take A Break Podcast, which is how I discovered her. Before switching specializations, she spent over a decade coaching more than 1500 human rights activists on how to confidently harness their stories to create real change and a more just, equitable world. I am a fan since discovering her through her podcast a few months ago when I decided to take a break from drinking and I quoted Rachel on Episode #13, called “Knowing Your Why” which she calls “having a compelling reason”.
Lisa: 01:54 I love the way this woman thinks and I so appreciate the nuances she brings to how we can change our habits and how we interact with alcohol and other things we might use to distract ourselves. She brings an especially important perspective on our cultural attitudes towards drinking and why our cultural thinking about alcohol needs a bit of an upgrade.
Lisa: 01:54 Rachel, thank you so much for being here. Welcome to my show.
Rachel : 02:12 Thank you so much for having me.
Lisa: 02:14 So as you know, I discovered you through your podcast and as my listeners might remember, I quoted you a few weeks ago on finding your why on episode number 13 because I love the way you think and I so appreciate the ways that you’re bringing nuanced ideas into how people can be really effective and really rock their lives and be happy and healthy. So since this is our first conversation, even though I’ve been following your work and I’m a big fan of it, I’d love to know a little bit more about your history. I’m wondering if you can share a little bit about your previous career working with human rights activists. What led you to that work?
Rachel : 02:54 Yeah. Well, you know, I actually started working at the American Civil Liberties Union right out of college. It was an amazing job to have. So I was working on, you know, some of the most pressing issues facing the country. And I eventually shifted into working at a large human rights foundation in New York City where I got to work on human rights issues all over the world, which was incredible, right. So really just be able to work with activists, you know, people in Kenya who are working on disability rights and people in Kyrgyzstan who were working on transparency. I got to do all of that because my job was to help them communicate better, to get their messages out there and be more effective. And you know, it’s interesting because now as a coach for a long time, I didn’t necessarily think that there were overlaps, but I see now that there, there really are so many overlaps between the work that I was previously doing and the work that I’m doing now. You know, a lot of human rights is trying to change the dialogue, change the discourse that we have about particular issues, particular problems, systemic problems that are facing not just the United States but the world and really changing that conversation. And I see the work I am doing around changing the conversation when it comes to alcohol…when it comes to people who feel like, I don’t like my drinking, but I don’t fit into this binary framework that most of society subscribes to. And I really see the work that I’m doing now as an extension of that previous Human Rights work that I was doing.
Lisa: 04:44 Yeah, well that makes total sense. And I love that you identify the concept of changing the conversation as the throughline. I really also see a theme of language in your work… that communication and how we articulate and how we pick the words that we say… For myself, as someone who really tries to be my most elevated and best self and continuously working on myself, but also someone who feels that alcohol gets in my way of that too often, I would love it if you could talk a little bit about that particular element of the work you’re doing now. I think I shared with you earlier that there are times in my life when I’ve wanted to drink less than I did, but I just could not relate to what I think is the sort of central tenant of some of the recovery programs. So when I found out about your work, I found it so incredibly refreshing and just so different from what’s out there in our culture. So can you talk about your approach and how it’s different?
Rachel : 05:59 Yeah. You know, I think one of the big things that I always really want people to understand is that changing your drinking and changing your relationship with alcohol is so much bigger than did I say “yes” to a drink or did I say “no” to a drink? And unfortunately, what I think happens all too often is that’s where the conversation stops. It’s like, did I drank or did I not drink? And I really do believe and I think you know, you talk about this yourself, right, that alcohol can get in the way of what you want to do. It can get in the way of showing up as your best self. It can get in the way of just how you, how you want to show up in the morning, how you want to show up when you’re socializing and that is so much bigger than just, did I drink or did I not drink?
Rachel : 06:44 And too often we’ve boiled down the conversation to just a yes or no. And you know, part of the problem I think is that we have this very black and white definition, right? Either you’re a normal drinker or you’re an alcoholic and there’s nothing in between. There’s no room for the fact that there are different degrees of struggle. Your drinking can change over time. It can look different in different situations. And you know, drinking can be placed on a spectrum, right? One far end of the spectrum may be a physical addiction, right? But another end of the spectrum could have unhealthy, moderately risky behavior, right? Like we have to be able to look at it with more nuance and we have to understand that the predominant narrative out there is that it’s a black and white issue. Either you’re a normal drinker or you’re an alcoholic, it doesn’t serve so many people. And it leaves a lot of people like, I don’t like how I feel. I don’t like the fact that if I don’t have a drink in the evening, I feel like I have no way to take the edge off my day. If I am having a seltzer when I’m out with my friends, I feel like I’m the odd man out or I can’t be my normal fun self. There are a lot of people in this kind of in-between area that feel like they have absolutely no resources available to them.
Lisa: 08:14 I really appreciate in your declaration about how you coach, but also in how you show up on your podcast that you really bring yourself fully and tell your own story. Can you share a little bit about your history that led you to do this work?
Rachel : 08:30 Yeah, I mean, the reason why I’m doing the work that I am right now is because I was in that in-between space. I felt like there were no resources, nothing available to help me in my situation. You know, I started drinking when I got to college and I very quickly learned that, I very quickly taught my brain like, oh, this is a way to feel confident. This is the way to feel fun and sexy and to get rid of that inner critic temporarily. And to dissolve on my awkwardness and my insecurity. The problem was alcohol wasn’t teaching me actually how to be a confident person. It wasn’t teaching me how to show up as my fun itself. It just became kind of a crutch that I didn’t know how not to rely on. I didn’t know how not to need. I talk about this in my book, why can’t I drink like everyone else?
Rachel : 09:29 I talk about how I actually took my first break from drinking when I was 22, right after my 22nd birthday, I was like, I feel like I’m not getting results. I’m not showing up the way that I want to. I’m not being the person that I want to be. I’m tired of waking up and feeling like, did I really say that? Did I really do that? And I was really tired of just having no idea what a night would look like. Was this going to be just like a fun night at a bar? No biggie. Or was this going to turn into, you know, a situation where it’s waking up the next day like, ah, what did you do? And I didn’t understand why I couldn’t figure this out. I didn’t understand why it was so unpredictable. I took my first break then and I remember feeling like, wow, I feel so healthy.
Rachel : 10:21 It’s amazing to wake up early in the morning. It’s amazing to wake up on a Saturday morning and not feel like, oh, like get me to the closest diner so I can eat my greasy breakfast to get rid of this hangover. Like all of that was amazing, but I was always feeling like I was missing out. I was always feeling like I was deprived. I was always feeling like there’s a part of me that didn’t fit in and so after about a year I was just like, ah, screw it. I feel healthier, but I feel like I’m healthy at the expense of being connected to people. At the expense of feeling like I belong. Feeling like I can have fun feeling like I have a way to cut loose and that wasn’t tenable. And so I spent the rest of my twenties really flip-flopping back and forth between, I don’t think this is working, but also when I would not be drinking, I didn’t feel like that was working either.
Rachel : 11:16 I felt like I was kind of suffering in the name of health, but I was just really determined to figure this out. I always tell women that I coach, I always say, listen, if you can be curious, that is going to be such a such an important part of how you start to unwind and understand this habit. And I really do think that I was just so frustrated, but I was also really, really intent on understanding this. I was really, really intent on figuring out a way that worked for me and I just kept looking, I kept searching, and finally, I got to a point where I started to find information that actually made sense. Information about like, Hey, let’s maybe not just pay attention to did you drank or did you not drink? But how were you feeling before? How has alcohol helped you? Why do you feel like you need it in certain situations? What are those emotions that you’re moving away from? I mean, it took me to a place of really understanding my emotions. Really understanding why had that negative self-critic and why she was so hard to get her to quiet down.
Lisa: 12:27 Let me just pause you there because I definitely want to get to the emotional piece and especially how you tie language and emotions together. Before you go there, I want to just pause to underline the point you made that if you can stay curious because I think this applies regardless of what it is you’re trying to change in your life. I think it’s one of those elemental foundational change-making pieces and habits that regardless of whether the issue is alcohol or food, or it doesn’t really matter what it is you’re trying to change. But I think that is a powerful statement you made that if you can stay curious about that which you are working on, you can make huge strides. There’s a lot of depth there. So just want to underline that.
Rachel : 13:16 Yeah. It’s so important because what happens for most of us is we go out, we drink more than we intended. We wake up the next day and we go immediately into a shame spiral. We go immediately into a place of, how can I be so stupid? Why did I do this again? I’m never going to figure this out. What’s wrong with me? Right? We go immediately into this place of beating ourselves up and I think one of the big problems is that there’s this kind of sense of sense if I can just be mean enough to myself, maybe then I’ll finally get it. Maybe then I’ll finally change. Right? And so a lot of people actually, you know, they understand that all the negative emotion afterward doesn’t feel good, but they think like, yeah, but I got to hold myself accountable.
Rachel : 14:00 Right? And if I’m holding myself accountable is mean. And so if I do that, maybe that will help. The problem is you’re just creating more negative emotion for yourself so your brain is already like, listen, let’s have a drink. Right? Like the way that I cope with my negative emotions, right, is to cover them up, is to reach for things in my external environment. And so I always tell people the antidote to shame…if you can be curious, you can be like, let me see if I can just put on a scientist hat for a moment. Right? And like what was happening last night? How was I feeling when I walked into that situation or when I was home by myself, what was I thinking? What was the thought that I had that made decide I’m going to have a drink and then keep going? Curiosity can be such a salve in that situation and can really show you don’t have to beat yourself up. You don’t have to go into a shame spiral in order to change. In fact, that’s probably gonna work against you.
New Speaker: 14:00 I think what’s so difficult for people is that most of us until we really start to examine this, we have no idea. All the things that we make either drinking or not drinking mean about who we are as a person. So we take on all these stories about what it means to be someone who doesn’t drink…what it means to be someone who’s like, no, I’m good. Right? And those stories get in the way of change. You know, one of the things that I talk about a lot is this idea that alcohol has been with humans for thousands of years. We’ve had thousands of years to develop stories about it. And the fact is that alcohol itself is neutral, right? Your desire is neutral, the choice to drink is neutral, but we don’t make it mean anything neutral, right? We make like, well, if I’m not drinking, maybe people will think I have a problem, right?
Rachel : 21:13 Maybe there’s something wrong with me. I’m the buzz kill, right? So it’s really, really important to understand that and unpack that. Especially when like you said alcohol is, for most of us, in so many different parts of our life. You know, I often, I often talk about the fact that, you know, I don’t drink now, but you know, all of my friends do. I don’t have a single non-drinking friend and for the longest time, my brain was like, well, how can these two things ever work together? Right? Because if they’re drinking and I’m not drinking, they’re going to think I’m weird. I’m going to feel like I’m missing out, but it was really starting to really tear down all those stories about it. Right, and understand really that like not drinking means nothing about me as a person and drinking means nothing about you as a person. Right? Like we don’t have to get caught up in this kind of like drinking is a vice and abstaining is a virtue, right? We can start to really just understand it for, you know, like do I liked the results that I’m getting? If I don’t, then figure out results that I do like. Let’s figure out a way to have a sustainable relationship.
Lisa: 22:25 Just get rid of all the emotional baggage on all counts that are connecting with it. Oh yeah.
Rachel : 22:31 That is so challenging for people.
Lisa: 22:32 Don’t you have a whole episode on that? Don’t you have an episode on the topic of alcohol as neutral or where do I remember that from?
Rachel : 22:38 Yeah. I have a whole episode on it because I will tell you that is the thing that I hear most often from people when they hear me first talk about this concept of alcohol being neutral and your choice to drink being neutral, it blows their mind. We’ve been so steeped in like right and wrong and good or bad, right? But this idea of like I can look at it in a neutral way and I can look at my choices in a neutral way. They don’t have to be a marker of who I am and whether or not I’m a good person or bad person or a fun person or a boring person. That I think just really a huge gift.
Lisa: 23:19 Really, really great. I love. I just love that piece I think is super important. So I want to talk a little bit more about words and letters because I know you mentioned that a few times. I saw that on a couple of places on your site…that you really love words and that your father was a middle school teacher who, like my father, loved e e cummings, which I learned from your episode on metaphor, so I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about the idea that you mentioned that we need metaphors in part because of the piece you mentioned earlier about the fact that we don’t necessarily grow up with emotional fluency and how people can use metaphor either negatively in ways that don’t serve us or how we might otherwise use it to our benefit.
Rachel : 24:06 One of the reasons why I’m so fascinated by still by the work that I do is because you know, people always say, oh, it’s just semantics. And I’m like, no guys, semantics matter, word choice matters. Because when you start to understand that your feelings are at least things that just mysteriously happen, right? When you start to understand that your thinking, your thoughts, what you make something mean, your opinion, your judgment is what is creating how you feel in your emotional state. All of a sudden you realize, hey, I really need to pay attention to the words making up the sentences in my mind. Right? Little tweaks can make a really big difference. So you know, one of the reasons why I love metaphors because I think so many people when they’re in this place of like, I don’t like the results that I’m getting from my drinking and I want to change it, but I don’t know where to turn.
Rachel : 24:58 Right? Because everything out there is black and white. It’s all, you’re an alcoholic or you’re a normal drinker. They start to just be in this place of like, Oh God, why do I even have an urge? Does an urge mean that something is wrong with me. I have a lot of people, a lot of women that I work with who just the presence of that desire towards the end of the day, which of course they taught their desire, right? Their brain learned that, oh, it’s 5:00 PM. I think we’re going to get a glass of wine. Just the presence of the desire freaks them out so much, right? They make it mean like maybe I have a problem, maybe something’s wrong with me. And so one of the things I start to do is like, let’s start to understand how can we start to see this urge to drink?
Rachel : 25:44 And frankly it can be the urge to do anything. I have a lot of women that take this work and they start applying it to food, right? Because they realize like, oh, there’s a lot of overlap. But how can we take this, this urge, which I’m so used to like, if I have an urge, I fulfill it. If I have an urge, I fulfill it. If you’re trying to change your drinking, if you’re trying to take a break and you’re trying not to fulfill the urge, how do we deal with it in a way that’s more sustainable? And so I have one client that came up with a metaphor that I thought was so, so smart. She said, you know, the more that I work with my urges and the more that I allow them to be there, but I don’t fulfill them with a drink, I kind of see it like it’s an itchy sweater. It’s like you put on that sweater and you look good in the morning and you think, great, it’s all going to be good. But then as you’re wearing it during the day you’re like, oh, this is itchy. I don’t think, you know, like, I don’t really like it. I don’t like the way it feels, but it’s not an emergency. You’re not like tearing off your sweater work and running to the department store to buy a new one. You’re like, I’m just going to change it. Right? Like, eventually it will be OK. And she started using that metaphor as a way to think of her urges a little. I feel a little restless. I feel a little uncomfortable and my brain is saying, hey, let’s go get a glass of wine. And I’m trying to do something different.
Rachel : 27:05 I’m trying to teach it something different, but it’s OK, it’s just an itchy sweater. And it was a way for her to start to really give an image to the urge that made it less threatening and made it less scary. And I really encourage people to find different metaphors that work. You know, I often talk about how we have our prefrontal Cortex of our adult brain and we have our lower brain. The more primitive brain where habits reside. And I often refer to that as a toddler. And that analogy is really helpful for people because it’s like, of course, the toddler ones more, right? Like, you know, this is why I don’t let toddlers feed themselves because it would just be like chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Like more candy, more candy, more candy. And so when you start to see it in that way when you start to understand there is a part of your brain that is just concerned with let me find the pleasure and avoid pain and do it as efficiently as possible.
Rachel : 28:09 That’s your lower brain when you start to see like, oh yeah, I have that toddler piece, but I also have an adult. I also have that prefrontal cortex that can think about how do you want to feel tomorrow? How do you want to show up in life? What do you want to go after that’s just bigger than getting drunk on a Saturday night, right? What do you want your legacy to be? You can start to understand why so many people feel like it’s like I have to have a split personality, right? Or I’m at odds with myself, and I’m like, yeah, of course, you are. You’ve got the adult and the toddler. And I think that kind of analogy can be really, really helpful for people to start to see the habit and see their desire in a different light.
Lisa: 28:55 So I’m so glad that you do the work with people who are wanting to change the relationship and doing this kind of retrospective work on how they can reframe and recreate new habits. But like me, you point out on your podcast that some of the habits you developed around drinking, you started in college. And so I’m wondering if you see ways that we as a culture or we as parents could have a positive influence or could support…Like what are the antidotes to actually having to go down that route to then circle back and fix it?
Rachel : 29:28 I think one of the very biggest things is that people need to have emotional fluency and we don’t do a very good job, in my opinion, talking about emotions, helping people understand emotions, what creates them, what they are, what happens in our body when we experience them. We don’t do a very good job of preparing people for that. So you know, I always say that, yeah, I started drinking to deal with my awkwardness and anxiety and insecurity when I was in college in social situations. But I learned well before I ever touched a drop of alcohol, I learned that skill of using something in my external environment to numb or cover up how I felt. And I learned that probably when I was 10 or 11 years old with food. I would come home from school and no one would be home. I’d be by myself and I was having a lot of, a lot of trouble at that point in my life and a lot of negative emotions and I would just eat until I was so full that I couldn’t feel anything. So that coping mechanism was already in place. And the reason that I learned how to do that was because no one had given me any alternative information. No one had said, Hey Rachel, you know what? You’re human. Because you’re human sometimes you’re going to experience positive emotions. Sometimes you’ll have negative emotions. Both are OK. If they’re negative. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not an emergency. If you don’t fight it, it will pass. And let me explain to you what’s creating it. Let’s look at what you’re thinking, right? Let’s also understand what’s happening in your body? I think most of us have this kind of relationship with a negative emotion that our brain thinks like, whoa, that’s an emergency. I gotta deal with that immediately rather than like, no, sometimes you know, sometimes you experience negative emotion. It’s OK, you don’t have to run towards, you know, food. You don’t have to run towards a drink and immediately change how you feel…immediately cover up how you feel. So I had that coping mechanism that was well in place, right, that already existed for many years before I just unconsciously learned like, oh, I guess a drink will do that. Right? And that is something I think that we really miss out on teaching kids how to do.
Lisa: 31:54 Yeah, I think you’re just hitting gold here because this is the kind of piece that will relate to everyone. It’s so deeply embedded in our culture that we don’t teach emotional fluency and awareness and acceptance of difficult feelings. And so I think this is a place where regardless of whether listeners are dealing with alcohol or if they’re dealing with food or if they’re dealing with all kinds of other ways that we distract ourselves from our feelings…I think it’s so relevant and just so common in our culture for the reasons that you’re hitting on.
Rachel : 32:27 Yeah. Well, I mean, listen, I always ask people like, why is it that you don’t go after whatever it is you want to in your life. Why aren’t you asking for a raise? Why aren’t you asking this person out? Why aren’t you telling your partner what you need? Why aren’t you starting in this business and when you start to dig down, it’s always the fear of an emotional, right, right. It’s always a fear of like, oh, I’ll be uncomfortable. Maybe I’ll be rejected. Right? I’ll feel insecure. I’ll feel awkward. Right? And so when you can start to understand that moving away from negative emotion is what holds you back in so many areas of your life, then you can start to understand that having this kind of…changing this relationship with your emotions and having this kind of different understanding of them is so much bigger than like, yeah, I don’t want to just turn into like a bag of chips, a bowl of ice cream or a cocktail at the end of the day. It really is the reason that we hold ourselves back in so many areas of our life.
Lisa: 33:42 A lot of times people will say, OK, but I don’t know how to do it. It might be many years that they’ve lived in this culture that does not teach them emotional fluency. What’s the best way to begin?
Rachel : 33:51 I often think it is like, what is that thing that you’re telling yourself you can’t do right now? And there’s a lot of different ways that you can go about this. You know, one is, I always talk with the women I work with to figure out like, what is it? Is it coming home from work that you’re like, listen, I just can’t deal with that stress and anxiety if I don’t have a drink. Is it going to a party and not having a drink and maybe it has nothing to do with a drink, right? Maybe it is something to do with just like, what are you not asking for in your life? What do you think would be embarrassing or awkward to do? I mean, there are so many kinds of different things that you can pinpoint and then part of it is your brain is there being like, don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it. You’ll die. It will be terrible. Part of it is actually choosing to move towards discomfort.
Rachel : 34:38 That’s what I tell people all the time. The way that the habit of drinking works is that we’re choosing short-term comfort, right? That short-term covering up of an emotion, that short-term relief from dopamine. We’re choosing that short-term comfort at the expense of long-term comfort, right? We’re creating long-term discomfort for ourselves. So it might be that we have weight gain from it or we just don’t like feeling like we need it, and the way to start to shift that is am I willing to move towards short-term discomfort? That short-term negative emotion? See what happens, like just treat it like an experiment. What happens if I go to a party and don’t have a drink? Isn’t survivable, right?
Rachel : 35:26 What happens if I asked my boss for a raise? Is it survivable? Whatever it is are you willing to move towards that short-term discomfort so that you can start to long-term comfort for yourself. And that’s a big shift that really is getting people to see that you have to start, you have to be willing to put yourself in challenging, uncomfortable situations. Situations where your brain will say, no, that’s impossible. It will be horrible. I’ll be miserable. I mean, I have this with people all the time, even just with socializing and the fear of it is so big.
Lisa: 36:06 It’s just really touching on something personal for me, which is that some of it is about recognizing who you are and being OK with the truth of who you are. So for example, in my case, I think I am actually not a very social person even I think a lot of my friends would say that’s not true of me. But actually, when it comes right down to it, I would much rather be doing something, creating something, practicing something, learning something, studying something, doing some kind of project with people. Just to go to a party or social situation is a little bit uncomfortable for me and so I don’t think I necessarily was really aware of that when I was young. So it was easy to fall into just the standard thing that everyone else is doing. Well, what are you doing? Well, have a drink. But if I actually had been honest with myself and look at it, I might have said, you know what? This situation isn’t actually where I want to be, but I have enough awareness to give myself other options.
Rachel : 37:19 That’s a really important piece of the puzzle for so many people because, you know, I was talking with a client recently and you know, and she was talking about that sometimes I get to that point in the night and if I’m not drinking and my friends are, I get to a point where I kind of want to go home, right? So then I’m going to have that drink to stay out with them. And I was like, what if it’s just OK for you to want to go home? That it’s an OK option. It seems so silly. Right? But of course, there’s all this like, well I don’t want to be the buzz kill. I don’t want to be no fun. But like, just even giving yourself permission. But just people get very like, oh my God, this is a ridiculous time to go to bed. Like I can’t be someone that goes to bed at nine. Right. That’s embarrassing. What if that’s what your body is actually asking for.
Lisa: 37:19 OK. What if we were actually just ok with who we are.
Rachel : 38:17 Yeah. And just, let me just try it for a week. You don’t have to commit to it for the rest of your life, you know. But even that is so challenging…like, I don’t want to be someone that goes to bed early. Like how boring…what a fuddy-duddy.
Lisa: 38:38 Can you go into describing or maybe give us a little bit of a walkthrough of your think-feel-act cycle?
Rachel : 38:47 Sure. When I learned this framework, the idea that you know, our actions don’t happen. There is something that propels them and that is how we feel. And our feelings are not created by everything happening in our external environment but our thinking. This is what really sort of cracked open for me the sense of like, Oh, maybe I can finally understand the habit of drinking. So, the idea is simple. The idea is your thoughts create your feelings and your feelings drive your actions. That’s it. That’s the think-feel-act cycle and the reason why it’s so powerful for so many people, especially when you are in a place where you have a habit that isn’t serving you and that habit can be anything, but if it’s a habit of drinking or the habit of eating, whatever it is, I have the habit of getting lost in your phone and losing time because you’re on twitter all day. So many times people will say, it just feels like it just happens, Rachel. I don’t know why it happens. I feel like I don’t have full control. And the reason is this. Humans were built to run on habits. Habits allow our brain to take action and not have to consciously be aware of the thoughts and feelings behind it, which makes us incredibly efficient as a species. But the problem is when we have a habit that we want to change it is incredibly frustrating. Because we’re sitting there like, I don’t even know how that third glass of wine happened. I didn’t think there was no feeling right, but there was. It was just so fast. It was so automatic and we’re so not used to bringing attention and awareness to this part of our life that it can feel very mysterious. And so I always think that using the cycle, understanding that there is always a feeling, there was always a thought before that…before any action…it gave me a framework to start to understand something that had just felt so mysterious and inexplicable for so long.
Lisa: 40:54 So can people use that as some kind of pattern interrupt in their everyday life and how would they integrate that?
Rachel : 41:00 Yeah, the way that I talk about it with people at first is, really before you start interrupting anything, you have to understand how the habit itself is working and so one of the things that I do is I really, when I am, when I’m coaching women, I really go into, all right, let’s break it down. Let’s really understand, you know, when did you decide to have that drink when you got home? And people will like, I’ll watch their brains. They’ll always be like, I don’t know, I just did. But part of the work that I am there, a part of my role as a coach is to really show them how to be the observer of their own lives. And so I do that by modeling it to them and starting to really ask them questions. When did that desire appear?
Rachel : 41:44 Did you have it when you woke up in the morning? Did you have a lunchtime? Did it occur to you when you were working on an assignment at 3:00 PM? Do not have it until you, until you drive home? Like really starting to pinpoint that and then asking yourself, what do you think the thought is? Was it like a glass of wine would be great. I’ve been good all week. I really deserve it. I just need to not feel this way. Whatever it is. And people are always surprised how much they have access to. How much, if they’re willing to be curious, they’re willing to dig, if they’re willing to keep asking themselves questions, they’ll start to see it. So you have to understand how that think-feel-act cycle is working to drive the habit. You have to understand all the feelings, all the thoughts that are behind picking up that glass of wine, but when you start to do that, then you can start to interrupt it and the way that you interrupt it in large part can just be, you know, allowing a feeling, allowing that desire to be there and consciously choosing not to fulfill it.
Rachel : 42:50 Or you can start to challenge the thoughts that you have, right? Thoughts like I deserve it. You know, one of the things that I talked to people about is like, what is it? When you say I deserve it, define what “it” is. You know, the brain just loves being vague. When I have people dig into that, they realize like, oh, I think I’m saying I deserve relief or I deserve happiness, or I deserve a good time. But once you can start to understand that, well then we all of a sudden have a new direction to work towards it.
Lisa: 43:24 A lot more choices about how you’re going to fulfill it. Well, I cannot let you go without digging a little bit into how you see your Super Power since that’s the focus of my show. Do you have a sense of what your superpower is? And by Super Power, I usually mean that skill set or that inclination that shows up across the board and in whatever you do. And usually by this point in the conversation, I have an idea of what it is but I usually like to put it out to my guests first. Do you know what your superpower is or one of them?
Rachel : 43:56 I think that one of them is curiosity. The more that I can kind of dig into a well of curiosity, the more that it serves me in everything. So I really believe the reason I was able to get to the bottom of this habit and to understand it and also to change my desire so I no longer feel like I’m missing out and no longer feel like I’m deprived if I’m not drinking was because I was just so curious. I just wanted to understand this. I just wanted to find an answer and I see that as something that helps me change that habit, but I also see it as something that helps me every day. You know, now I have my own business. Now I’m an entrepreneur for the first time and its curiosity is something that…if I can start to tap into that, that really is such a profound starting point for the work that I want to do as opposed to sitting there being like, well, that didn’t work like that. I screwed that up. Right!? If I can start to deploy curiosity, it makes such a big difference. So I do think that that is one of them.
Lisa: 45:04 Nice. Yeah. It really gives us that ability to tap into being constantly growing and learning, which is exciting.
Rachel : 45:14 Yeah. I will say, you know, I think that not drinking is also kind of a Super Power for me not in that sense of abstinence is such a virtue, but I think that, that, that has forced me to be so mindful in a way that I never was. And it has forced me to be so present and so I’m in tune with what I am feeling either positive or negative and what I am trying to move towards or move away from. And you know, for me it was just such a go-to habit. It was such a way to celebrate everything…celebrate that it was Friday; celebrate that I got a promotion; celebrate that I finished that training. Or such a way to move away from any kind of negative emotion that taking a break for me, all the sudden forced me to be present and to be mindful and to look at my life cycle in a way that I didn’t have access to before.
Lisa: 46:18 Well, interesting because I initially, as I think I mentioned to you. really wanted to call this episode, “Sobriety as a Super Power” and then we went back and forth a little bit in email questioning if that dismisses the idea of, you know, of labels that you like to really call attention to. So I think you really just brought it all together in a way that makes sense to me and the way that I think about the possibility of sobriety as a Super Power.
Rachel : 46:43 Yeah. And I think also just understanding that you can decide that you want to change your drinking. You can decide that you want to take a break and you don’t have to assume a label. Right. When we’re so conditioned to believe like, oh, now I have to tell everybody that I’m sober. Right. For some people, it feels incredibly empowering and they love that word. And for other people, you know, I think about it and I’m like “sober” and I think it’s kind of sedate and subdued and solemn right. And not having extreme qualities of emotion and I’m like, that is not me. Right. Like if anything I feel like I do feel sometimes my positive emotions have been supercharged through all of this work that I’ve done. I’ve not only been able to figure out that I don’t need numb, I don’t need to cover up my negative emotions, but I feel my positive emotions in so much more of a powerful way because I’m not always trying to augment them. I’m not always trying to be like, oh, I had a great victory at work…how can I reward myself with dopamine? And so for me, that word has never really resonated, but I think it’s just important that there can be multiple ways forward. There can be multiple ways that worked for different people. We don’t have to have this kind of either or this either-or dichotomy that exists today when it comes to thinking about drinking and thinking about why you might want to change it.
Lisa: 48:14 Well, I love the way you think. I so appreciate the way you speak and how articulate you are about all of these nuances and different ways of being empowered around alcohol and in ways that appeal and apply to other things. Let me say that I will put all the information, everything we’ve talked about in my show notes. I highly recommend that listeners tune into Rachel’s show “Take A Break” from drinking, right!? The show’s called “Take a break”. Definitely, listen in to it! There’s so much you can apply to so many different areas of life. But if people did want to reach out to you about the possibility of working with you how can people learn more about what you’re up to?
Rachel : 48:59 Yeah, definitely. I mean the first stop and go to the website, RachelHart.com and you can start to see my approach, and what I’m about. I do work with people one on one. So if you’re interested in that, that’s available, too. But you know, I like to have as many resources available as possible to as many people because I see how powerful this work is. And I want this work to reach more than just the women that I coach one on one. And so one of the things that I have is a five-day reset. So it’s a training and challenge where you take a five-day break from drinking. But it is so much bigger than just not drinking for the week. I’m really asking you to examine so many of the things that we’re talking about today and, and really start to understand how that habit works and why you feel like you need it and you know, new ways in which you can create fun. That’s a free challenge and I think it’s a great way to just kind of dip your toe into, let me think about this differently, but let me see if I can just start to understand my relationship with alcohol a different way and see if I can get better results.
Lisa: 50:06 Great, that’s fantastic. So for people who are listening to audio only, Rachel Hart is H-A-R-T. I want to thank you so much for your time. I appreciate all that you do in the world. I think it’s such necessary work, and thank you for being here with me today.
Lisa: 50:06 I hope you found that conversation as powerful and as important as I did. I believe the work Rachel’s doing is transformative and necessary for our world right now. Before I say goodbye I want to remind you that I have a new segment coming up. It’s called Celebrating Listener Super Powers. And I would love it if you would record a message to me. You can even do it on your phone voice recorder and send me a sound file to hey at lisabl dot com. You just have to tell me your name, your show, or business or organization so I can share with my listeners and then tell me what you see as your Super Power, and how it shows up in your life. If you can’t record audio just send me an email with that information written it out and I’ll read it out. You can DM on the Facebook page. I want to celebrate you. I want to celebrate your Super Powers. I want to hear from you. And if there’s someone you think would enjoy what we’re up to, please do forward it to them. The show notes and information about Rachel can be found at lisabl.com/22.
VO: 50:48 Thank you for listening to the Super Power U Podcast. Please subscribe to the show on iTunes and get more information at LisaBL.com.
You can find the SHOW NOTES HERE.